An Inconvenient Truth

Movie Information

Genre: Documentary
Director: Davis Guggenheim
Starring: Al Gore
Rated: PG

The title of this documentary just about says it all. Davis Guggenheim’s film of Al Gore’s campaign to make the problem of global warming better understood and recognized presents a truth that is indeed inconvenient to a great many people — people who will probably never see the movie.

I have friends who would benefit from seeing An Inconvenient Truth, but they won’t because it comes with the word “liberal” hovering around it. It will therefore, they believe, be a lie. This is the same approach they took with Fahrenheit 9/11 and Why We Fight — liberal propaganda need not be considered. Of course, this raises the question of whether it’s a matter of worth or a matter of, yes, inconvenience.

I suggested that it was about inconvenience when I reviewed Why We Fight, since those friends’ livelihoods are tied to the military industrial complex the film attacks. One of them wrote me, saying that this isn’t his only reason for his conservative politics — a statement that carries with it the implicit admission that convenience is indeed part of the equation.

A quote from novelist and political activist Upton Sinclair used in An Inconvenient Truth: “It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends upon his not understanding it.” Sinclair was referring to the attitude he encountered over his 1906 book The Jungle, but it certainly applies here — and it’s at the bottom of why An Inconvenient Truth will, to some degree, be an example of “preaching to the choir.” In most cases, this could be dismissed as merely unfortunate. In this case, there’s the potential for something far too disastrous for it to be considered “unfortunate.”

An Inconvenient Truth isn’t really a question of liking or not liking Al Gore. It isn’t really a question of believing him or not believing him. It’s a question of looking at an impressive array of scientific data and reaching your own conclusion. That, of course, is exactly what a good many people don’t want you to do. Take a look at any message board discussing this film’s message. After the predictable attacks on Gore (the lie that he claimed to have “invented the Internet” is trotted out again) come the equally predictable links to articles that a little research shows were written by people with ties to the –surprise of surprises — oil industry. And so it goes — to a point of logic that would shame Chico Marx asking, “Well, who are you gonna believe? Me or your own eyes?”

Despite the fact that the film — and Gore — try to make much of the information accessible on a human level through personal anecdote and by drawing carefully reasoned parallels (oil interests being likened to tobacco lobbyists turning fact into something no more concrete than “debate”), the case being made for the impending — quickly impending — and irreversible dangers of global warming is itself presented on scientific grounds. No amount of “Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain” bluster changes that — regardless of the level of denial employed.

What’s surprising is how engaging and entertaining the film is. Yes, it’s a science lecture when all is said and done, but it’s a science lesson that’s never dull — chilling in its conclusions, but hardly boring. It probably sounds like overstatement, but this is a case where you really do owe it to yourself and to the future to see this film. And if you choose not to see it, ask yourself if it’s simply because the impact of seeing it would indeed be “inconvenient.” Rated PG for mild thematic elements.

— reviewed by Ken Hanke

About Ken Hanke
Head film critic for Mountain Xpress from December 2000 until his death in June 2016. Author of books "Ken Russell's Films," "Charlie Chan at the Movies," "A Critical Guide to Horror Film Series," "Tim Burton: An Unauthorized Biography of the Filmmaker."

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